Tuesday, 1 September 2015

TOMB OF THE TRUMPS #06 - Devil Priest Pack Part VI


Well it's that time again folks! Time once again to brave the dark corners of geekery and unearth the secrets found in the Tomb of the Trumps! And this week we have an effing exotic pair of ferocious frights for you! First up, we bring forward... The Fiend!
Ah The Fiend! Perhaps one of the more notorious cards in either deck of Horror Top Trumps, and certainly a strong contender for the most gratuitously violent too. You just wouldn't get a splatastic pic of a beheading complete with smashed vertebrae in a modern child's game! And people say there was no magic in the '80s...

But I digress... 

So then, assuming that this furry gore-monger wasn't just the product of a deranged imagination and a heroic lack of judgement on the part of Top Trumps, where did this fluffy decapitator come from? Well, surprisingly The Fiend's origins lie outside the horror genre. In fact, they lie in an old Steve Reeves movie - yes the same Steve Reeves as referenced by Dr Frank N Further in the iconic number Sweet Transvestite in The Rocky Horror Show.

Old Stevie was an US bodybuilder who won Mr Universe back in 1950, and parlayed his good looks and massive Greek god physique into an acting career - scoring a worldwide box office hit with a role he was born to play, the lead in Hercules (1957). In fact folks, Mr Reeves is very much the godfather of the muscle man turned action star school of acting, blazing a trail successfully followed by the likes of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, and Jean-Claude Van Damme. And although those who followed in his wake in the '80s made more successful movies, arguably Mr Reeves was a better actor than most of 'em put together. His natural charm made him a fun and memorable Hercules, a giant with a heart of gold, and a slew of sequels followed. 

In fact there was a whole wave of these sword and sandals movies coming out of Italy at the time,  featuring tales of Classical heroes, Roman warriors and brave gladiators, known as peplum (named after the Graeco-Roman tunics their heroes usually wore). And a great many starred our hero Mr Reeves, with one such outing being Il terrore dei barbari  from 1959, retitled Goliath and the Barbarians in the US to cash in on Reeve's fame as Hercules. In this epic on a budget, Reeves plays Emiliano (or Goliath in the English version), a hulking but kind guy who ends up defending beleaguered villagers from a mob of vicious barbarians. Now it's true that many peplum involve fantasy elements, and quite naturally too as they are often drawing on Classical myths and legends. However this isn't the case with Goliath and the Barbarians, leaving us wondering then where does the furry Fiend come from? Well, in his one man war against the barbarians, Reeves' Emiliano/Goliath initially fights back vigilante style, by taking a leaf out of Batman's book and dressing up in a lion costume to scared the pants of the barbarians while simultaneous knocking seven bells out of them! 

"Barbarians are a cowardly breed..."

And there we have folks! Sadly no, there's aren't scenes of him doing a splattery beheading by smashing a spinal column but you can't have everything I guess! However all credit to the Unknown Horror Top Trumps Artist whose deranged imagination, probably fueled by a deadline and the hallucinogenic fumes from '70s Magic Marker pens, managed to transformed a swords and sandal's hero into a furry Fiend! 

Anyhow, moving on, we come to our next card, which features a face that any old Doctor Who fan will recognise instantly!  
The Daemons was the fifth story and final story in the eighth season of Doctor Who, in five parts from 22nd May to 19th June 1971. It was the second season for the Third Doctor played by Jon Pertwee, and while this incarnation remained exiled on Earth, this second run of stories introduced a regular villain, the Doctor's arch enemy The Master, played by Roger Delgado. Hence in all the Season 8 tales, no matter what weird menace was threatening the Earth, the Master inevitably had a black gloved hand in it somewhere. 

Therefore when an archaeological dig at an ancient barrow was going to awaken an alien from the dawn of time with god-like powers, then naturally the villainous Master was on hand to exploit the situation. And as the alien in question, Azal, is from a race known as The Daemons, and whose image inspired our planet's legends of devils, the Master naturally forms a black magic coven to raise psychic energy to to waken this powerful slumbering ET... Anyhow, you don't need a full plot summary here - go watch the story instead! But here's Azal in in the very publicity shot copied for the card (and signed by actor Stephen Thorne who played him/it! ) 


Incidentally this is not the last time we will encounter a creature 'borrowed' from 1970s Doctor Who but more on that another day! Finally, we should also note that the erroneous, and probably for the purposes of copyright dodging, title of the card 'Fire Demon' may well have been lifted from another old classic. For 'Fire Demon' is what the titular beast is referred to as being in Jacques Tourneur's classic Night of the Demon (1957) (Curse of the Demon in the US). However it equally could have just been a lazy and generic title slapped on there... such are the mysteries of the Tomb of the Trumps! 



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